Over the past 17 years, the Sacramento Kings have had it harder than any other NBA team.
In that stretch of seasons, they have not only failed to make a playoff appearance but also a play-in appearance. But with the Kings having the best start to a season in more than a decade, is this high level of play sustainable for Sacramento for the remainder of the regular season?
Where the Kings currently sit
Following a 133-116 win in their first game back after the NBA All-Star break, the Kings are 33-25 on the season. This places them as the third seed in the Western Conference and the leaders of the Pacific Division.
To add to their beneficiaries, the Kings are closer to the Memphis Grizzlies for the second seed than they are from falling into the play-in position. Along with the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers, the Kings are in a unique class of Western Conference teams that have a winning record both at home and on the road.
The remaining schedule
If there is any time that the Kings could prove this season is different than much of recent memory, it would be how they execute down the stretch of the regular season.
Through the end of the season, the Sacramento Kings have the fourth toughest schedule strength remaining in the NBA. This includes one matchup with the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and two games against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Why they can do it
The Sacramento Kings have had an outlier of an offensive season this year compared to recent seasons of disappointment. Aside from the Denver Nuggets, they are the only team in the NBA this year that ranks in the top 10 in points per game, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage among all NBA teams.
Another intriguing aspect of Sacramento is that half of the 10 players who average the most minutes in their rotation have playoff experience, while the other half have none. Sometimes, it’s the young, hungry players with minimal experience who can pull off the biggest surprises.
At the same time, veteran leadership is incredibly important in the locker room. Harrison Barnes, along with head coach Mike Brown, are proven NBA champions. Kevin Huerter has played an integral role on a team that made the conference finals. Trey Lyles and Terence Davis both played important minutes for teams that were the top two seeds in the conference. That doesn’t even include Domantas Sabonis, who has been consistently in the MVP conversation all year.
Why the Kings can’t do it
Easy answer… they’re the Sacramento Kings. The last time you looked back with content about a season by the Kings, Kevin Willis was still in the NBA. Willis also came into the NBA at the same time as Michael Jordan to add insult to injury. While their offense has been very impressive this season, the defense has been rather inconsistent.
The road to success is not something to overlook though. But with a team currently positioned to host a first-round playoff series, this can be concerning.
Ultimately, the Sacramento Kings might be the most fascinating team to gauge for the remainder of the season. History tells us to bet against the Kings because it has been ages since the last time they were in the top half of their own conference.
The distance they have built over their Western Conference peers early in the season will likely be enough to light the beam and grant them a playoff spot for the first time since 2006. Even if they slide to a high-seeded spot in the play-in, their home record this year is better than any team’s road record in the conference. The odds are definitely in their favor to make this year one to remember.